Heat exhaustion and preventing it in the summer
Summertime is here!
Sunny skies, school breaks, and swimming pools—summer can be lots of fun for the whole family! While you’re enjoying the summer, don’t forget to stay hydrated and take measures to prevent heat exhaustion.
First off, what is heat exhaustion? Heat exhaustion is a condition in which your body has too high of a temperature, such as through being outside in the heat, exercising too much, or both.
How do you know if you are having heat exhaustion? Some of the signs of heat exhaustion include: headache, dizziness, feeling lightheaded or that you are going to pass out, nausea or vomiting, sweating more than usual, cool and moist skin, and muscles hurting. It can progress to a heat stroke, which includes signs of: red, hot, and dry skin, heart beating fast, confusion and delirium, nausea, and passing out.
Heat exhaustion can become a heat stroke, which is potentially life-threatening. A heat stroke is a medical emergency, and you should call 911 and seek immediate medical attention if you suspect it. Some cases of heat exhaustion are very serious; so you should also seek immediate medical attention.
How can you prevent this? Thankfully, there are many steps you can take to try to prevent this. It is important to stay hydrated. If you are dehydrated, you are less able to sweat, which is a way that your body gets rid of excess heat. You can also minimize going outside during the times that it is hottest outside, such as in the afternoons. This can also include late mornings and early evenings when the daylight hours are longer. Dress matters too! You can try to wear light and loose-fitting clothing that allows you to sweat and air out heat. Alcohol and caffeine can also make it harder to regulate your temperature, so try stay away from those when you are going to be outside in the heat. Wear sunscreen and bring it with you! You can reapply it every 2 hours or so. Do not leave people or pets inside parked cars—parked cars can become dangerously hot very quickly, even with the windows cracked open. Try to limit how long you exercise outside during the summer, since the combination of hot weather and exercise can increase your risk of heat exhaustion and stroke as well.
If you suspect heat exhaustion or heat stroke, seek immediate medical attention. If you have young children or elderly parents, speak to your doctor about how to keep them safe in the heat. If you are taking medications, you can also speak to your doctor about them. Some medications can affect your body’s temperature control and increase your risk of heat stroke.
Summer is a beautiful time to enjoy! Just be careful in the heat and take measures to enjoy it safely!
Dr. Chang is a resident physician who sees patients of all ages and provides obstetrical services at Lone Star Family Health Center, a non-profit 501©3 Federally Qualified Health Center operating facilities in Conroe, Spring, Willis, Grangerland, and Huntsville, and serving as home to a fully integrated Family Medicine Residency Program to increase the number of Family Medicine physicians for Texas and our community.